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February 27, 2008

old school pakour

"old school pakour" was posted by dogpossum on February 27, 2008 5:21 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances | Comments (0)


I'm currently thinking about 'faceplant fatigue' as a tiny side-thought in a larger article and am collecting articles.

There are heaps of other neat articles on the sudden 'rush' to ditch faceplant, but I'm tickled by the thought of 'social networking fatigue'. It's so difficult having friends.

"ideas" was posted by dogpossum on February 27, 2008 12:03 PM in the category academia | Comments (0)

February 20, 2008

two words

The Wire.


Get into it.
Best telly ever. Ever. I mean, it challenges West Wing for good. I'd say it's better than Deadwood. Really. It's more interesting than The Sopranos. It's so, so good.

Here's a little taste:

"two words" was posted by dogpossum on February 20, 2008 10:48 AM in the category television and the wire

February 18, 2008


I love superhero films. I love sci-fi. I will see anything on these themes, anything at all, so long as it doesn't star Tom Hanks (whom I abhor and avoid at all costs).

So I went to see Jumper the other afternoon on my own (couldn't imagine anyone else who'd go see it with me and understand how I wanted to watch it). I was expecting B, and B I got. But it was fun*. Until just now, when I started thinking about it.

Here's a quick overview of the story (look out for spoilers):
A boy is bullied at school. He has an abusive, alcoholic father.
He learns to 'jump' between physical locations. There's talk of worm holes and so on, but it's mostly a matter of willing yourself to a new location. You must, though, have a picture or visual image of your destination - your jump point (this is interesting because it leads to obsessive, massive collections of photos of exotic places).
He grows up, and has a flash apartment. He jumps all over the world, stealing money from banks.
He's chased by nasty 'paladins', who're some sort of ancient religious order committed to wiping out jumpers.
He revisits his high school sweetheart and shows off. This ends in trouble.
He learns he's not the only 'jumper'.
He joins forces with another jumper (just for a very short time, it's agreed) to kill a particularly nasty paladin, Samuel L. Jackson.
He discovers the mother who abandoned him is a paladin.
She saves him in Rome.
There's a lot of fighting, the girl gets beat up a bit and involved in the violence.
The paladin gets killed (I think - I can't remember).
He (and the girl) visit his mother. We're left with a 'there will be a sequel' scene.

Basically, it was like watching The O.C. with special effects. The characters were physically quite beautiful (in a very conventional, O.C. way). There were petulant teenagers of both genders (I think the protagonist was meant to be in his 20s, but he read teenager to me), there were silly car chases (yay!), there were silly story lines... no, wait. I don't think there was actually a story line.
Overall, it was fun. So long as you didn't notice:

  • The way the protagonist (whose name I just can't remember) treated women: find 'em, fuck 'em, jump out of their town and go surfing/leave them stranded in a foreign country. This wasn't a feminist-friendly film. There were at least two female characters, but they didn't really speak at all, let alone speak to each other
  • Paladins. Why do people call characters 'paladins'? Especially if they're baddies? It doesn't really work, even if it's meant to make you think about knights or swords or whatever.
  • Ethics. Well, you wouldn't have to ignore them, because there didn't seem to be any. It's made quite clear that this a fairly selfish teenager, who could seriously do with a telling off. At one point he's watching telly in his luxury flat and we see a news story about people stuck in flood water. The voice over on the news report is something like 'how could anyone possibly get there to save them?' and the protagonist looks away, bored. Needless to say, though he has the technology, he won't be doing any saving. Or walking to the fridge. Or using doors.
  • The muscles-without-cause. The protagonist is seriously buff. Buff like Clark from Smalls - he's seriously built, and yet his lifestyle doesn't seem to leave room for working out, getting exercise, lifting weights, etc. So the Jumper guy is seriously musclebound, and yet he's so lazy he's suprised when the other Jumper guy (that young kid from Billy Elliot, all growed up) walks around cities instead of jumping from place to place. How, I ask you, could he have developed that body - hell, how could he not be seriously obese with that type of lifestyle? Clark has a slightly different problem - he's simply so strong he'd find it very difficult to get any sort of resistance training happening. So how come he's so buff and built?
  • The costumes. Oh, golly, there was bad teenage fashion in this film. Where was the big name French designer to save the costumes? Even the stupid Matrix managed to put together some decent costumes for the characters.
  • The camera work. Oh man, I freakin' hate this director (Doug Liman), especially the Bourne films. The latest Bourne film was particularly painful - nasty cuts, editing jumping all over the place, horrible hand held camera. In most cases all this busy technical stuff managed to distract from the excitement and tension of the actual events on the screen - we're so busy noticing the editing or camera work, we forget to pay attention to what the protagonist is doing. I dunno, perhaps it 'looks' like first-person real time games or something (hence marking its territory as 'young adolescent males' with this and the persistent misogyny in the narrative), but I just find it annoying. Jumper was at times really difficult to physically watch - the camera would move too quickly for your eyes to focus (including a couple of really, really lame pans across the desert - they were meant to show us how alone and isolated the character/lair was, but moved so quickly we didn't have time to see that there was nothing to see). There were some poorly composed shots - nasty framing that left you thinking 'perhaps this film's artier than I th... no. It's just crappy.'
  • The extras. Looking. At. The. Camera. Yes, wonderfully profesionally work there, Young Woman In Bar 2.
  • The bullshit sound in the bar scene. So the protagonist is in a bar, talking to his high school sweetheart. It's crowded. Said crowd is watching a sports game (dunno what type), so they alternately cheer loudly, hush expectantly and mouth conversations silently in the middle of the shot while the leads talk about... what? I was distracted there. That was some really bad action. So we heard the leads talking quietly, with almost no ambient noise, and then all of a sudden the crowd starts cheering. We see people, right in the middle of shots, talking, but we can't hear them. It's really, really terrible, amateur stuff.

But, on the other hand, we can read this film as a story about an abused child suddenly granted unbelievable superhero powers.

Interestingly, the film is based on a young adult fiction novel by Steven Gould. I haven't read it, but on wikipedia is notes that the protagonist is escaping from an "abusive home". If you keep that in mind, it's not really all that surprising that he ends up obsessed with money and a 'safe' home, hidden away from the rest of the world. It's also not surprising that he's crappy with relationships.
In that light Samuel L. Jackson's obsessed hunting of the jumpers becomes quite distressing. If the protagonist is a damaged boy who's not really living socially, then a vicious, religious fanatic hunting him fanatically because he knows he's innately 'evil' serves as the scary fulfillment of an abused child's sense of self:

Dad hurts me because I'm bad and I deserve it. The paladins are hunting (and hurting) me because I'm evil and I deserve it.

This becomes even more concerning if we keep in mind the fact that we only ever see male jumpers, thus conflating all jumpers with this one protagonist - his experience becomes the experience of all jumpers. This idea is born up by the (unheard) confession by the Griffin (Billy Elliot) jumper that his parents were killed by paladins when he was a child. And the fact that Griffin had a nasty childhood (a point the protagonist responds to with his first moment of 'real' (?) emotion. So either all jumpers are echoes of this one protagonist, or all jumpers are abused boys who've managed to 'escape'. Either way, it's unhappy stuff.

We also see the protagonist's mother (who abandoned he and his father years ago) turn up on the paladin's team, later explaining that it was actually the son's fault that she left in the first place (and her leaving is presented as the reason for the father's alcoholism and violence)... Well, it's not a happy story.

Again, if we read this as a story of a lonely, abused child, it's not surprising that the boy's chained bedroom door (chained on the inside to protect himself) is replaced by an apartment which apparently has no working doors, and includes a 'panic room' (with no doors at all) filled with money and gear. Hoarding food is a marker of a pretty unhappy, frightened child, and hoarding currency/jewels/gear in obsessive tidiness becomes the marker of a damaged young adult who never feels safe.

So, there are lots of things to ignore in this film, and lots of things which are really quite sad on second glance. But if you just think 'woo-hoo! Special effects!' it's all cool. Particularly if you like the O.C. (which is also a story about an unhappy boy-man whisked off to sudden and startling wealth, if I remember properly).

*I've blogged the preview here.

"jumper" was posted by dogpossum on February 18, 2008 12:55 PM in the category fillums

fats waller v duke ellington


It's been tricky fitting in all my listening this past weekend.

Will it be Fats, or will it be Ellington? Witherspoon and Sam Price don't even get a foot in the door, I'm afraid.
I have 8 Ellington CDs to get through, and 3 Fats CDs to get through, and I'm not rushing, mind you. I like to listen to new CDs really slowly, lots of repeat listens to individual songs, lots of skipping back to check out a particular section.
So I'm not exactly running through my new goodies. And when I'm reading, I simply don't hear the music at all, so I never know when a song's finished. Or a CD's finished. I think this is partly why I hate having music on when I'm working - it's a waste. Music also tends to stop being music and just turn into the odd sound or bump or squeak which I catch every other minute as my attention shifts back to the aural world. I also really hate having that annoying background buzz distracting me from ideas when I'm thinking. So I like Total and Complete Silence when I'm working.

But I was all about Fats at first:
Fats Waller and His Rhythm the Last Years ( 1940-1943 ) to be precise. This is the other goody that came for me last week. It's really, really wonderful. I adore Fats, and this is perhaps the best collection I have (so far - there's no end in sight). So, seeing as it was the first collection that arrived, this was where my listening was at. But then the Ellington Mosaic arrived, and now I'm all about Ellington.
It's not a real competition, not really. But I'm finding it tricky getting through all these. And it feels like every single song on this Mosaic set is wonderful - I have to keep stopping to put songs into my 'should play' list for DJing. Luckily there's quite a bit of stuff I don't already have (I love, love, love the smaller group stuff, and have the Columbia 2-CD 'Duke's Men' vol 1 and vol 2.

I really should get my finger out and properly research all these guys, get a proper idea of who recorded with which companies when. Get some sort of clue as to who was in whose band at what time. But I really can't be arsed devoting valuable research time to something that's meant to be fun. There's so much other stuff I should be researching (let's not talk about reality TV, ok?), I just don't want to ruin music for me. I have read bits and pieces, but I just don't have a sensible, comprehensive set of facts and figures and names at my disposal.
I mean, I am totally crap with that sort of thing normally (my memory is so crap it's a joke), and I find it really difficult to remember the names of songs. I can pick the musicians or the bands (mostly because they tend to have quite distinct musical 'styles' or 'accents', so you can guess who's playing what), but names of songs? Nope. I can generally guess the era (30s, 40s, etc), but not reliably. This means that it's always a nice surprise to discover I actually own that song that such and such just DJed. But it also means my learning curve re jazz history is more of a plateau.
I've also noticed that a song seems to sound completely different when you're dancing to it than when you're DJing it or sitting at home listening to it. I think it's because when you're DJing or listening, you pay really close attention, in a conscious-brain sort of way. But when I'm dancing, I'm responding unconsciously, not actually consciously thinking 'oh, muted trumpet' or 'huh, chunky bass'. Plus there's a bunch of other things going on when you're dancing that distract you.

Anyways, the bottom line is, Ellington is winning, but Fats is kind of niggling in my hindbrain. It's high-brow versus visceral, bodily goodness - Ellington is clever, Fats is fun (Ellington is fun too, and Fats is clever, but Ellington is telling you he's smart and Fats is telling you he'd like you to sit a little closer and pass him a drink).

"fats waller v duke ellington" was posted by dogpossum on February 18, 2008 11:18 AM in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

February 15, 2008

Sam Price and His Texas Blusicians 1929-1941

images.jpegSam Price and His Texas Blusicians 1929-1941 is the other CD that came this week, part of the Big Binge. It's a Chronological Classic, which is important because this series of albums feature artists in chronological order - so you get a series of Duke Ellington CDs featuring songs in the order they were originally recorded.
It's the most comprehensive series of albums, and they're quite sought after. You can pay zillions of dollars for the rarer ones. But I've picked up ones that are cheaper and really great. My favourite is the Duke Ellington and his Orchestra: 1949-1950 one, which I picked up quite cheaply. It featured a song called B Sharp Boston which I really like and play quite often at late nights (it's a bit slower). It also features Joog Joog, which has some nice female vocals (again, the CD's in the other room, so I can't check the name for you, sorry, but I think it's a combination of Ivie Anderson and someone else [EDIT: I just checked and I think the notes are screwy, or I don't understand, as it has a bloke's name for the vocals, when I'm certain it's Ivie Anderson and someone else...]). It's quite an interesting album because it's later Ellington (round about the time of some of the late testament Basie stuff that I really like), but Ellington is quite a different band leader. Most of these songs aren't that wacky arty stuff he got into in the later period, but are much more popular songs. So it makes for interesting listening. And some great dancing.

Any how, this Sam Price action was drawn to my attention by Trev, king of fun scratchy music. And I'm quite in love. He apparently played with Lester Young's band (or at least Lester - this is another CD I have to check the liner notes on. It's only new, so I'm totally clueless on specifics). Sam Price, not Trev, that is.

One of my favourite bits of this album is in the song 'Do you Dig My Jive?' where he sings:

Ain't nothin' new about jive,
Believe it or not,
I know when jive first started,
The time and the spot,
Way back yonder,
In the year one-ty-one,
You can bet your sweet life,
That's when jive begun.

I like 'onety-one' - the first year. It makes me giggle.

So, of course, I'm swimming in lovely music today. And trying to pretend I don't have a dentist appointment this afternoon. I think I'll follow that up with a nice film. Probably Jumpers rather than the more serious things I want to see (There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men, American Gangster), as I'm always a bit traumatised after the dentist. Thing kind thoughts for me, will you?

"Sam Price and His Texas Blusicians 1929-1941" was posted by dogpossum on February 15, 2008 1:02 PM in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

mosaic Duke Ellington: 1936-40 Small Group Sessions and Witherspoon-McShann Goin' to Kansas City Blues

...and the last of my Big Binge CDs arrived today, along with a lovely needlepoint pack. It was just like christmas.
Let's start with the needlepoint. I bought it from this slightly dodgy looking site. I've recently gotten returned to needlepoint, c/o a christmas present Margarate Preseton job, and have gotten a bit obsessive about it. Had to have another to do, though I've managed to sate some of that obsession with a nice blue patchworked crocheted blanket for The Squeeze - I can't bear large crochet projects in summer, but the smaller squares are easier - remind me to post pics of my fabulous red flowered job. Note the price - $55 for printed canvas + all wool. That's not bad at all. And it's an Australian company, so there's less postage to pay.

1011.jpg Jimmy Witherspoon with Jay McShann Goin' to Kansas City Blues from Mosaic. I'm a big fan of Jay McShann, and while I don't like Witherspoon's politics, he can sing like a mofo. I'm still keen on that big, fat 50s sound. This one has lovely quality recording, and the band is so freakin' good (Emmett Berry, J. C. Higginbotham, Hilton Jefferson, Seldon Powell, Al Sears, Kenny Burrell, Gene Ramey and Mousey Alexander). Some of it veers off into post-swing (this is a 1957 recording after all).
Most of my Jay McShann is earlier - nice, dirty Kansas City stuff. Though I do have this album Hootie!, a live job by his trio in... damnit, I haven't entered the date! [EDIT: just checked it - it's 1997] And the CD is far away... Anyhow, that's a great album, but it's supergroove. Lots of long, tinkly songs with tinkly piano, often at supersonic speeds. Not really the best dancing (except for the odd blues track), but really good listening music. I really like McShann's piano style - it's so different to people like Basie and Ellington and Junior Mance and Oscar Peterson.
So, anyhow, this new CD is really fun. Lots of great, upenergy songs. As I said, though, it's a bit post-swing, in that it stops swinging quite so much. The slower ones are better, but the uptempo ones are kind of staccato or abrupt. Don't swing so much. What this means for dancers is that it feels like you're rushing from beat to beat, and that songs feel faster generally. This can be good for lifting the energy in the room every now and then (especially if it's a more recent recording), but ultimately, it does bad things to your lindy hop. We need that gushy, delayed timing to really make us swing, to keep us hanging back and soaking every last moment out of each beat.

235.jpg My other lovely present is Duke Ellington: 1936-40 Small Group Sessions, another Mosaic set I've had my eye on for ages. Cost a freakin' bomb, but oh-baby, I have a serious thing for Ellington that's just not going away. I have quite a few Ellington CDs and collections, but I couldn't resist some lovely Mosaic remastering goodness (that's what makes these expensive things worth it - good remastering, not to mention fab liner notes and packaging and great service).
This is completely different stuff to the Witherspoon CD - 20-odd years earlier, different approach to the rhythm section, very different approach to composition/arrangement. Really, this is a nice comparison between classic 30s swinging jazz and the 'next generation'. While I adore the Witherspoon/McShann CD, this is where my heart truly lies. I love Ellington for the complexity and sophistication of the arrangements and plain old management of the band. Each musician has a very particular job, and they do it just wonderfully. I also prefer this bouncy old school sound - makes me want to lindy hop. None of that shuffle-rhythm going on in the drum kit area. Nice shouty choruses at the end of songs. Yes, please.

I also like these big 'complete, collected works' sets because they include multiple takes of the one song. This means you get to hear the band make minute variations in the way they play, and you really begin to understand how the band work together as a team, and how a slightly shorter solo can change the whole song. I also like hearing the people in the studio talking - it's like we're just that little bit closer to a world that feels imaginary, most of the time. They way they talk, the things they talk about - are all so far away from us. But when you hear them swearing about fucked up takes or laughing at jokes, it becomes a bit more real.

So, sitting up in bed looking through all these goodies this morning (it was an early delivery), it felt like my birthday. And it was lovely.
Now I just have to score a few more DJing gigs to cover these extravagances.

"mosaic Duke Ellington: 1936-40 Small Group Sessions and Witherspoon-McShann Goin' to Kansas City Blues" was posted by dogpossum on February 15, 2008 12:23 PM in the category digging and djing and music

February 13, 2008

banana bread recipe?

Ok, so I'm on the baking thing again. Made an amazing cake the other day - it's a Two Fat Ladies recipe for Danish apple and prune cake. It's more almond meal than flour (omg!), and I substituted figs for prunes last time, and this time I used fresh strawberries instead. Basically it's a rich, sweet cake made from a batter (ie don't over beat it) which you put sliced fruit on top of. Then sugar. Then cinnamon. Oh MAN it is AMAZING. Will post recipe when can be buggered.

But NOW I need a good banana bread recipe. I am distinguishing between banana cake and banana bread, here. I want something that's not as sweet and sticky and glucky as banana cake. I want something heavier or doughy-er and not as sweet. No icing. No way.

Anyone got a good recipe?

"banana bread recipe?" was posted by dogpossum on February 13, 2008 8:09 PM in the category fewd



I'm glad I'm not the only one who cried like a freakin' baby watching the ABC this morning. I cried and cried. It was just nice to see such a mark of respect. I kept thinking 'those aboriginal doods are the first aboriginal people - the first indigenous Australians to be given such formal respect, EVER!' It was just so exciting and wonderful. Sure, there were some problems with that second speech there, but still - it was like, all of a sudden, Australia had suddenly realised that there were people who'd been here before the skips rocked into town. Like they went, "Holy shit! We've had our heads up our bums for 200 years! Let's get on it, STAT!"
I know it's only a symbol, but holy moly, if that doesn't give good evidence to the power of symbols, I don't know what would. That was some seriously hot shit. Now I have an idea how people feel when they go to the dawn service for Diggers or put up flags in their front yard. It was like, all of a sudden, I had a reason to be really proud of being Australian. It was like, amazingly, even though people had been doing fuckful things for 200 years, and then refusing to admit they'd been fuckful, they suddenly, really, did think "Oh, man. That was some bad shit. We have to apologise." And then they did! I was just proud. It was like a couple of kids had suddenly realised they were being mean to another little kid and apologised to him all on their own. Now I'm hoping they'll be taking that kid home for detty-and-a-bandy before out to the back yard for a rousing game of tiggy.

And I was also really struck by the power of turning your back on someone. No fisticuffs, no nasty retorts. Just turning away. I think that's a nice alternative to bombing the shit out of people. I know it's the solution I've used on discussion boards when I've had a gutful of sexist dickheads, or I'm dealing with trolls, but who'd have thought it would be so useful when dealing with the Liberal party? And that it just keeps getting more effective?

For those who are about to reconcile, we salute you.

edit: and I'm just thinking: it's the overwhelming symbolism of having those elders in parliament while they were speaking. I just kept thinking, 'it's like they didn't exist before. And now, all of a sudden, parliament has discovered they exist. They're recognising them, and they're honouring them'. I know that's problematic in itself, but goddamn, I just can't get over it.

"sorry" was posted by dogpossum on February 13, 2008 7:41 PM in the category television

sour grapes

Reading this rant here (and it is a rant, and I do think we should all allow ourselves the luxury of ranting on our blogs - that's the delight of self-publishing, no?), my immediate thought was "that's a bit rich." I mean, the author is one of those young-gun rock star type American academics. She's sporting a whole lot of academic and social privilege which plebs like myself really don't have access to.

I also thought "hey, I have a paper in that journal!" And I am, I must admit, extremely excited about my article (it's a nice one about YouTube and dancers and I'm quite proud of it). It's not in that special issue of the journal, though it was initially accepted and later politely knocked back (I guess it was bumped for some rock star, right?). As I said, I'm feeling quite chuffed about being in this journal - it's an International, donchakno? So I'm not all that cool reading that post - what does that make me, sister? Some sort of publisher's stooge (I wish, I wish - I am so ready to be some publisher's stooge).

So reading that article, I was a little bit... pooped. I mean, I don't really think it's all that cool to snub the very source of a serious part of your cred and status. That's the action that's getting her a career. That's the action that'll help me get a permanent job (anyone else just loving these semester-by-semester positions? Empowering, no? Terribly punk, yes?) and fund my future jazz spending (wait, I'll tell you about today's presents later). That's the stuff that'll make the past...15 years of work mean something.

I'm sorry, homegirl, you can't go making those sorts of calls without expecting some sort of kick up the bum... or perhaps just a polite throat clearing and measured response.
This one by Anne is my favourite so far. I also like Jason's comment on the original article and his blog entry. You can chase the other responses around the internet yourselves, but you can see the sorts of responses that sat bestest with me.

I think, from my position here, as:

  • casually employed lecturer
  • unemployed researcherjust-finished-(no corrections! - sorry, but I need to remind myself at times like these) PhD-person
  • self-employed article-writer and book-maker (oh yes, I can't help but squeeze those papers out - it's like blogging: must share, look-at-me-look-at-me-look-at-me!, God, am I the only one?)
  • serial paper-giver/self-humiliator

I'd be kissing internet arse, making like I was the biggest bitch o' the establishment ever if I was in that position.
I mean, isn't that the scam? We get in there, softly, softly, then we make with the rabble rousing on the quiet, like?

And, finally, the other immediate thought that I had when first reading that initial post was, "hells bells, woman, we're working in universities, not Médecins Sans Frontières". Yes, it'd be really nice to think that we were actually out there making people's lives wonderful, fighting the good fight and all, but at the end of the day we're working within institutions whose primary goal is to institutionalise people. And to make money. I think it's a little naive to think that universities now - if ever! - have ever really been about freeing minds, making jiggy with the knowledge and all. I know it's a wonderful idea, but in practice... let's be realistic here. Researching and writing in universities is privileged stuff. It's not easy - it's damn hard work, especially for n00bs - but it's pretty freakin' good work.

And sure, let's say our academic articles are suddenly free and available to the whole universe. Does that mean that they're suddenly also well written, accessible and meaningful to most people? I don't think so... There's far more to be done to make academic work the people's work than simply avoiding old school journals. And I do feel that there's some sort of ...arrogance? to the idea that just because our academic work's out there in the 'public sphere' that people'd actually want to read it. Pft. I don't think so. You know they'd really rather look at kitties. I had that idea when I started in on my PhD work. But maybe that's just dancers - no time for academic wankery.

...I can't help thinking about this as I type this. I might be one of those types.

"sour grapes" was posted by dogpossum on February 13, 2008 6:58 PM in the category academia

(insert dumb pun about listening to me here)

I've been thinking about this in relation to dancers. I'm not sure if dancers are really where they're heading with that project thought - I think that's a bit serious and got some political work going on. Dancers just seem kind of ... frivelous in comparison. But perhaps that's interesting in itself. Perhaps it's worth talking about listening as 'fun' as well in terms of participation in serious public discourse.
But I'd like to write about 'listening with the body' and the way dancers (especially DJs) listen to music with an ear to dancing. And how partner dancers share the way they hear the music by getting in closed position (and open! because lindy hoppers are badass and don't need closed to communicate!) and just feeling the way the other person is moving their body. And the truly wonderful, amazing thing about partner dancing is that this isn't conscious - if we had to stop consciously think 'hm, how is my partner feeling the beat here?' the whole thing would collapse. It's about training your muscles to respond automatically to physical stimuli.

Here's an example: one of my first ever yoga classes the instructor was pushing on my back, right about where the leader puts their hand. He said "stop pushing back - let me push you into place". I didn't even notice that I was pushing back - it was just a matter of, as a follow, my 'giving back what I was getting' - returning equal pressure to make a nice connection. So I had to learn to let him move my body about without returning pressure.*

Any how, when you're partner dancing, you've got all this stuff going on in your body, unconsciously. And then the music starts. And your lead 'sets the tone' of the relationship/partnership for the dance - they tell you how they feel the bounce (nice and big and Swedish? Miserly and American? Horrifically absent?), and that bounce is the easiest way for you to keep in time - you bounce along to the beat. The harder the music swings (ie the less on-the-beat-abrupt-yuck it is - the longer the delay between beats, the more time squeezed out of every beat), the more time you have to do deeper bounces (this is where I just can't articulate it - it's something you have to see and feel), etc etc.
And because you're a team, you give back an idea of how you're feeling the music. If they're a great lead (which is congruent to being a great person in this instance), they'll respond and incorporate your feeling into the partnership, so it's not all one-way.

And all this before you even move! You're still in place just checking each other out, 'listening' to the music.
And it's even more complicated it it's live music - the band is feeling each other out, they might be checking out the dancers...
It's all very interesting. Improvisation makes music so much more fun and challenging - anything can happen. So you all have to have really nice connection so you can communicate. You've all got to be giving back what you're getting. Equal pressure.

Any how, I think it's interesting. And I'm going to send in an abstract, but I'm not sure they'll dig it. We'll see.
I'm finding people think my dance stuff is kind of hippy dippy. I feel like one of those fruit loops you meet at conferences who give papers about..., well, that weirdo, completely off-the-wall, nothing to do with anything stuff. I think people hear 'dance' and think the way they do when they hear 'ficto-critical'. But most academics simply don't dance, ever. And most have never partner danced more than once or twice. And that's especially the case as the last generation of ackas retire. It kind of proves my point, though - anyone who dances regularly doesn't think 'woah, fruit loop'. They give dance as much importance as music or visual texts...
...after all, how come we're all so keen on words and less interested in nonverbal communication? I mean, I'm not that much of a hippy dippy type. I don't have any time for crystals or faith healing or past lives. I mean, I even find improvised 'arty' dance discomforting ("I'm a tree, I'm a flower!").

...ok, now I'm ranting and being mean about hippies. I guess I can't get on that wagon if I grow my own veggies (go tomatoes (even if you are eating my clothes line)! go mutant lettuce refugees! go unbelievable amounts of passion fruit!) using compost from the compost bin (go incredible fertiliser!), don't bother with makeup or leg shaving (w the goddamn f?), don't understand high heels and take less time getting ready to go out than The Squeeze. And that no car/love bike thing? Not exactly pushing me to the mainstream.
But come on - you know what I mean when I'm talking about the fruit loop types. That's not me, ok? I'm, like, TOTALLY normal! Rrlly!!1!!

*aside: this is where I feel 'compression' comes from - you give back the pressure your partner gives you (unless they're super-tense, but that's a different story). For the equilibrium made by that equal-return of pressure to become them actually moving you, you allow the pressure to build up until it sort of 'tips' you over into moving. It's really hard to explain, but it's not a matter of just immediately doing as your partner moves you - you have to return the pressure until you reach the point of 'critical mass' where they then initiate movement. There are all sorts of other things going on (including what they're doing with their bodies - are they moving their body weight?), but it's sort of working around that idea.

"(insert dumb pun about listening to me here)" was posted by dogpossum on February 13, 2008 6:28 PM in the category article ideas

February 12, 2008


How wonderful are cheezbergers?


"omg" was posted by dogpossum on February 12, 2008 3:00 PM in the category clicky

slim gaillard's Laughing in Rhythm and Fats Waller and his Rhythm, the Last Years 1940-1943

Two new arrivals:
Slim Gaillard's Laughing in Rhythm. Can't believe I've only just bought this. I am so the slowest, uncoolest DJ on the block. I mean, I've bought bits and pieces from places like itunes, but still. It's a bit late. I'd still like the giant Gaillard Proper set, but I just can't bring myself to buy all that nonsense singing...

Fats Waller and his Rhythm, the Last Years 1940-1943. I now own about 60 million Waller CDs. And I'm not quite sure that's enough.

"slim gaillard's Laughing in Rhythm and Fats Waller and his Rhythm, the Last Years 1940-1943" was posted by dogpossum on February 12, 2008 10:22 AM in the category digging and djing and lindy hop and other dances and music

February 5, 2008

teaching tools

So I'm all lined up to do some serious teaching next semester. The bit that I'm most interested in is coordinating the subject I did last semester. I'll be able to put together a reader that suits what I'm teaching, I'll get to rework some of my weaker lectures and tutorials, and I'll be able to redo the assessment. There's lots of admin work involved, but I'm actually not too bad at that stuff - MLX has made me strong. Plus I quite like the ob-con-ness of sorting and organising and making lists.
One of my first jobs will be getting some feedback from the sessional staff who taught with me on that subject last year. I want to know what worked, what didn't, what they'd like to see on the subject (or ditched).
The next job will be working through the lectures and reworking the weeks - dumping the dumb stuff, strengthening the good stuff, adding in some useful stuff that was missing last year. I'm aiming for your basic intro to media studies/communications/cultural studies subject, including some really safe, useful 'textual analysis tools' (this is something the department really wants), some stuff about media industries and some stuff about audiences. I'm (mentally) dividing the subject up into those three parts (n those that order), and hoping to have three manageable (and hopefully cumulative rather than discrete) pieces of assessment to go with each (though that's something that needs to be discussed).

I'd like a reader that had a greater emphasis on Australian cultural/media studies (especially in reference to the industry stuff... for obvious reasons), and including some more up-to-date readings (ie not stuff from the 80s... unless it's something particularly important or awesome).

I'm also keen on strengthening the weekly tutorial exercises. I'm ordinarily not the hugest fan of this stuff, but this type of weekly mini self-assessment is important and can be really useful. Putting together a comprehensive weekly exercise (which isn't too long) is also a nice way of making sure I structure my lectures properly (which I'm kind of anal about anyway), make the readings really relevant and giving the students an idea of the most important points in that week's topic.

All this is for a first year subject, so I have to keep it pretty simple. It also has to work as a 'teaser' for later subjects - it has to convince these guys in the general arts degree that media studies/cultural studies/communications is fun and interesting and useful.

I'm a big fan of multimedia components in the teaching and learning tools, but I was very unhappy with webct last year. I'm not sure it's a good idea to get into moodle or another hardcore online teaching tool. But I do think it's important to have some sort of online component, particularly for teaching across campuses, and teaching students who don't spend much time on campus.
I am thinking about just using a plain, simple blog. Something like this one (but obviously not this one) which is super easy to navigate, allows me to embed youtube clips, add in useful links, upload lecture notes, etc. I do have reservations about uploading lecture notes to a public forum, though. This is where it's actually a good idea to have a site where you must log in to get the good stuff.
I have considered other options like druple (bllurgh) and plone, but if I'm going that way, I really think I should use something designed for teaching - like moodle or webct. But I don't think it's a good idea to have students learn how to use a whole new system/site, just for one subject. And I'm not keen on learning myself - it's not really worth the effort.

I also think it's a good idea to use sites that students are already comfortable with. For obvious reasons. This of course leads us straight to faceplant and myspace. But I'm not happy with faceplant. I don't want to encourage students to use such a massive data-gathering business tool.

There is, however, the google option. Google docs is something we're considering using for MLX this year - a central collection point for files and discussions and email and things. But once again, it does require students learning a new system, signing up for new accounts and so on.

So my questions are:
- is it ok to use a blog where the lecture notes are public? My feeling is no.
- should I use something like plone which can have a public 'face' yet also requires students to log in to access notes?
- should I just suck it up and use webct?

All of this is very interesting and quite exciting. I'm looking forward to teaching with confidence material I know well, and to being able to strengthen what I've already done without starting from scratch. It'll also be nice to not be working to such a full-on, heinous schedule, writing lectures as I go through the semester.

"teaching tools" was posted by dogpossum on February 5, 2008 4:01 PM in the category teaching

20s partner charleston

This is a cute charleston routine.

"20s partner charleston" was posted by dogpossum on February 5, 2008 1:04 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances

February 3, 2008


That horrible program is over and we've just watched our way through the lovely Billy Elliot (not Billy Holliday) and are now beginning with the divine Staying Alive. Directed by Sylvester Stallone, no less. And starring John Travolta. "Do you dance?"


"phew" was posted by dogpossum on February 3, 2008 11:32 PM in the category fillums and lindy hop and other dances and television

oh man

I am trying to watch So You Think You Can Dance, and it's really hard. It's really crap.
But there are fleeting glimpses of dancers I know (Trev! Trev! Trev!), and I'm half thinking of writing a paper on it. Maybe doing some interviews with dancers. Maybe something about the way ethnicity and dance and bodily aesthetics are represented in SYTYCD.

But it's really freaking painful. The worst bit is the way the judges have a small group step forward to be humiliated. It's all a bit lame. I know it's all orchestrated for a specific reality TV formula, but it feels far more forced than the American versions. So I'm really not sure I can manage much more of this.
But there are a few lindy hoppers who made it through to the final 100. But man, I've been watching for almost an hour and a half. And it's horrible.
The other really annoying part is the way it's cut up and stuck back together - lots of short, snappy bits. No where near enough long, long sequences where we just watch the dancers and assess their abilities. Which of course suggests (like we really need it suggested) that the dancing is really only important for brief moments of spectacle and that the real drama is in the judging and backstage stuff.

It's all a bit painful. I'm also a bit sceptical of comments about including the young aboriginal bloke because he brings 'diversity' to the program. Hm. And the woman from El Salvadore telling her (quite terrible) story to a pretty wet soundtrack.... kind of clumsy and chunky and nasty.

[good news: there's a new series of Good News Week coming. Bad news: it's on channel 10]

Ok, it's supposed to be over now, and we're supposed to be watching Billy Holiday. But it's not. Oh man.

"oh man" was posted by dogpossum on February 3, 2008 8:48 PM in the category lindy hop and other dances and television

look at this interesting thing

Some artists in York (UK) hooked some lights up to York Minster cathedral which responded to sound. As people (and passing vehicles) made noises, lights were projected onto the facade of the cathedral, moving up the contours of the building.

This clip is kind of annoying to listen to, but it makes for fascinating viewing.

"look at this interesting thing" was posted by dogpossum on February 3, 2008 2:55 PM in the category clicky